By Robert Gosselin
On Oct. 23, the Weston Auditorium was transformed into a little bit of Dublin when the renowned Celtic music group Cherish the Ladies performed as part of the CenterStage series at Fitchburg State University.
For those unfamiliar with the group, Cherish the Ladies is a world-renowned Irish-American ensemble that has entertained audiences all over the globe for the last 25 years. Saturday night’s version of this very talented musical troupe consisted of Joanie Madden, Mary Coogan, Deirdre Connolly, Donna Long, Gráinne Murphy and Jimmy Keane. They skillfully thrilled and entertained the audience with a full evening of traditional music.
The large and highly enthusiastic crowd was delighted by the masterfully performed selection of songs from the Celtic world, but there were a few performances that deserve to be singled out for their excellence.
“The Old Maids of Galway” was a rollicking example of a traditional Irish reel. The piece started with the very talented Joanie Madden on her penny whistle, and one by one the other musicians joined in. By the end of the song every toe in the house was tapping.
One of the evening’s most touching moments came with Deirdre Connolly’s heartfelt rendition of the Tommy Sands’ composition “There Were Roses.” This haunting and beautiful song told the tragic tale of two young men caught up in Irish sectarian violence between Catholics and Protestants. Not only was it beautifully sung by Connolly, but it also provided an important and moving reminder of Ireland’s often troubled past.
While the entire evening was full of such captivating music, another performance worth mentioning provided a glamorous touch of piano recital when Donna Long played a lovely version of the song “The Lark in the Clear Air.” Her solo was both elegant and passionate.
Nevertheless the evening was not just about music and the audience was treated to a number of thrilling performances by some truly outstanding dancers. One particularly talented young man, Jon Pilatzke, should be singled out for his remarkable demonstration of the percussive foot style of traditional French Canadian fiddle playing.
In additional to the spectacular professional dance numbers, the audience was delighted by the appearance of three colorfully costumed young local Irish step dancers, from the Flying Irish Troupe of Ashby.
Of course no evening of Irish music would be complete without a proper sing-along, and while the show ended far too soon the night was brought to a fitting close when Deirdre Connolly coaxed the audience into singing the Irish classic “Welcome Poor Paddy Home.”
It was truly a wonderful evening, and one would hope that in the not-too-distant future Cherish the Ladies can find their way back to Fitchburg and grace us with another night filled with tapping feet, beautiful singing, and smiling Irish eyes.